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As well as the sabotage and the criminal elements, thousands of children are being educated at school. Many ill people are being treated in hospitals. Oil and
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water are flowing again, in spite of attacks. Electricity supply is restored. Of course that does not hit the headlines, but it is the increasing reality in Iraq.
In this extremely difficult situation, where do we find the Liberal Democrats? As usual, they are on the bandwagon of opportunism. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) can sigh and moan, but it is true. Not just in the House of Commons, but on the stump in the European elections, they are showing cynical opportunism. As we heard from their spokesman today, they are coming up not with a solution, but with constant, carping criticism, undermining the morale of our servicemen and women.
Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): May I tell the right hon. Gentleman that I have visited Iraq since the start of conflict and the troops there have told me that they have been very grateful to Liberal Democrats and others who have been putting their side of the argument? May I remind him that the Liberal Democrats pointed out that our troops did not have the right kit and the right boots when the right hon. Gentleman's Government sent them to war to fight?
Mr. Foulkes: When the hon. Gentleman was talking to those troops, he did not understand the irony that they were using to make their point. They are a cleverer lot than he gives them credit for. He and the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman have taken a very interestingly different line on that from time to time.
In contrast to the Liberal Democrats, our troops are helping not only to keep the peace in difficult circumstances, but with reconstruction and rehabilitation. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) did not even mention or recognise that, let alone give them credit for it; nor did he come up with any constructive and practical suggestion for the way forward. Indeed, he spoke like the lawyer he is, to put a straitjacket on our troops. If it is necessary to reinforce our forces for effectiveness, for their safety or to extend their tasks, the Government should do so.
At least the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not call for immediate withdrawal. I suppose that we should be thankful for that small thing, although someincluding my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), who, given his time in office, ought to know a great deal bettercall for that immediate withdrawal. That is the height of irresponsibility. It would result in a bloody, all-out civil war, in which thousands of people would die, and the danger of a return to dictatorship.
Mr. Kilfoyle: It is rare for me to defend my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), but my understanding of what he said is that he hoped that after elections there would be a withdrawal, not an immediate withdrawal after 30 June.
I bow to my hon. Friend's correction. Perhaps I shall have to correct my remarks in relation to
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my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston. I shall check the record. There are some who are calling for an immediate withdrawal, which would certainly result in bloody civil war, as I said. That, incidentally, is not just my view. It is also the view of leaders of socialist parties whom I met at the Socialist International executive in Budapest on Friday, and not all of them supported the intervention by Britain, the United States and the other countries that supported us. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) said in an intervention, we must stay the course. That was a telling phrase. Following the assassination of the leader of the governing council, it is even more vital that we reaffirm our intention to do so.
I conclude where I started. One of the world's worst dictators has gone. Some people have saidas did the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples)that there are many other dictators. At least there is now one less. Because we cannot get rid of them all does not mean that we should not get rid of one of them. I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that.
Now, Iraq is moving, albeit hampered by terrorists and by the faint-hearted, towards democracy and prosperity. That is something of which the House and our Government should be proud. I support the Government in their determination to see it through.
Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park) (LD): The previous speech was most enjoyable, in the usual Dr. Pangloss style of the right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). We heard, as usual, that all is for the best in the best of all possible situations.
It is important for the House to examine the reasons we were given a year ago for going to war with Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction, we were told, were ready within 45 minutes to destroy us. Dossiers were published to support that view. In my family, where there are three scientistsalbeit two medics and a geologistthose dossiers were looked at carefully and thought to be extremely faulty and very bad science indeed. I wonder whether there are any scientists at all in the Cabinet if they could accept the sort of rubbish that was peddled at the time.
Nevertheless, many in the House accepted those dossiers and the reason given. We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction. If there were, where are they now? We do not hear the Government speculate very much on where they might have gone. The whole situation in Iraq has been such a shambles over the past 12 months; if the Government were so sure that there were weapons of mass destruction, it is extremely worrying that we have no hint of where those weapons might be now.
We were also told, as Dr. Pangloss reminded us, that human rights were being abused and that Saddam Hussein was a monster. I entirely agree. That means it is even more important that our campaign should have been conducted in the most impeccable way, and that there should have been faultless behaviour by the Americans and ourselves in Iraq. The reverse has been true.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab):
Can the hon. Lady imagine what would have occurred
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if photographs of abuse in prisons, which was far worse under Saddam Hussein, had come out? If such photographs had been available during Saddam Hussein's regime, they would have been used as part of the humanitarian justification for the invasion of Iraq.
Dr. Tonge: The hon. Gentleman makes a point, but I am getting a little tired of hon. Members saying that the human rights abuses allegedly being committed by the Americans, even if not by our troops, are somehow better or not so bad as those committed by Saddam Hussein. Abuses of human rights cannot be graded. The abuse of human rights is an absolute. We no longer have any moral authority. I was reminded of that last week while we were tackling the Sudanese Foreign Minister on the abuse of human rights in Darfur when I noticed faint smiles on the faces of the Sudanese delegates. It is difficult to claim the moral high ground when such things have been going on in Iraq.
We were also told that somehow Iraq had a connection with world terror and Osama bin Laden, but since the invasion of Iraq world terrorism has increased. The supporters of Osama bin Laden, who had no previous connection with that country, are now in there. We in Britain are more at threat than we were a year ago when we went to war.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): The hon. Lady will perhaps appreciate the intent of my intervention when I say that the question of the moral authority of our troops under the Ministry of Defence and the Secretary of State for Defence is entirely different from that of Saddam Hussein and his regime, in that here we investigate the allegations and act on them when they are proved. I challenge the hon. Lady to say that Saddam Hussein would have done the same.
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